We had the good fortune of connecting with Jay Maggio and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jay, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
The simple answer is “income”. I have been pretty much on my own since I was seventeen years of age and worked my way through college and thereafter. I pursued various avenues for careers. A career as an artist was really the last resort. Growing up in rural Louisiana the general attitude was “it’s great that you are talented young man but you will really need to get a real job.” Although I initially pursued a career in art while attending LSU, I later conformed to that way of thinking and pursued a different career path. In 1995 when I lost my job working at a software company here in Dallas I tried various income generating avenues. None of these proved profitable and a career as an artist was seriously my last choice. Very sorry I did not take the career choice as an artist more seriously and pursue this path at an earlier time in my life. However, I do think that pursuing this career at a more mature age has had its benefits.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
When I returned to school I received an associate degree in Automotive Marketing. As a result I worked for a number of dealerships. I think my instinct to survive and knowledge acquired about marketing greatly aided in managing my art career. Most importantly which I think many in the art world understand and encourage is for your work to be distinctive. When I first understood the importance of my work to be distinct I began to experiment with several styles. I completed around ten paintings and had a small exhibit in a restaurant where I worked at that time. This enabled me to get plenty of feedback and evaluate which paintings appealed to most customers. Naturally they were all drawn this one painting of a lone oak tree in a yellow field with a lavender sky. It was done in a technique in which the tree and field consisted mostly of small dots very much like pointillism. At that point I knew to follow this lead and create more paintings in this style and eventually evolve my style from there on. I also added a second style, more or less a second branding not unlike what automobile companies like Toyota did with Lexus. What I did was create a second body of work and branded it “DeGraphi”, an acronym for “detail graphics”. This additional body of work is more detailed, very impressionist and reminiscent of Van Gogh’s style of work with many small lines of various shapes creating the same lone tree in a brightly colored field as my original body of work. I don’t worry to much today, sales have become very consistent and I get repeat collectors. Getting to this point was not without many struggles. My life has always been like a roller coaster with ups and downs. It’s rather routine now. Art is a luxury and as a full time artist in which around 95% or more of my income comes from my art you can imagine how sensitive my sales and income are to economies and any type of disaster. Relying heavily on sales from one gallery that represents my paintings in New Orleans I have been seriously affected by Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes that land ashore in south Louisiana. The 2008 financial collapse and the current Covid-19 pandemic have also seriously affected my sales and income. For someone like me it’s just common sense that the easiest way I have learned to survive is to keep my expenses and debt low and to live modestly. It’s fortunate that I am not a person of great needs or expensive tastes which helps me adhere to a modest lifestyle. I will always treasure my friends as my greatest asset in my career. When you have many friends you have little need for luxuries. They have also been some of my most supportive and loyal collectors.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is a hard question to answer without knowing more about the person and their interests. I enjoy showing people around but I would rather know what their interests are before I plan events for them. The first place that is always on my list to show people my city is the Dallas Arboretum. I understand that it ranks as one of the 14 most beautiful gardens in the world. You can easily spend a whole day there. Amazing color, vast array of flowers, foliage, occasional art shows, as well as seasonal and holiday themes. In addition to the many fountains, ponds, arbors, and cafes, the Arboretum has beautiful views of White Rock Lake and the city skyline. I would entertain them other days with trips to one of our various beautiful parks, trails, nature preserves, our wonderful zoo, or to one of our many great museums. An outdoor lunch to the lagoon at Fair Park would be an outing I would be delighted to plan. Fair Park has great history as the largest group of art deco buildings in the world. Dallas is a very large metropolitan area today with many great distinctive neighborhoods, each with its’ own charm and character. It would be easy to pick a different one every day to venture to and enjoy some alfresco dining. Our city is at no lost for an abundance of pubs, clubs, and bars. It would be also easy to venture to different entertainment districts like the Design District, Deep Ellum, Downtown, Bishop Arts, Uptown, Oak Lawn, Trinity Groves, and others to enjoy social activities. We also have an incredible arts district with theaters, opera house, symphony, dance, etc.. American Airlines is a very comfortable and easily accessible venue for sports or concerts if the person is interested. The Dallas-Ft Worth metroplex is comprised of over 30 cities and around 30 lakes for numerous other adventures of nearly every kind. Dallas is also a very well known place for great shopping which seems to be the primary objective of my sisters when then visit from Louisiana.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Having been independent most of my life I kind of would like to selfishly give myself some credit but I have merely just been trying to survive. However I don’t think it’s just talent but mostly has to do with perseverance and some good luck. Since my art career came late in my life I have to admit that I realize now that I very much took my talent for granted and never seriously considered the prospect for a career as an artist until I actually became a full-time artist. I did not feel that I was any more talented than anyone else. I probably have felt this way because I really just didn’t have the encouragement I needed to pursue a career as an artist earlier in my life. Most people that know me today would probably be surprised to hear that as a child and teenager I was rather shy but I did have this nun that was very supportive in my earlier years. Sister Ann Constance Livaudais, the art teacher at the Catholic school I attended was the first person to recognize my talent and help nurture and encourage me. Unfortunately so much was lost in my college years in that it was such a struggle to have to work to pay for school and attend class at the same time. This difficulty forced me to drop out in my third year and work for a year while I earned money to return to school. When I did return to school I made an abrupt shift in majors and dropped interest in art. After that I worked in other industries for 20 years before pursuing my current career as an artist. This is where most of the credit for my current career has to be awarded to Alan Barnes of Alan Barnes Fine Art here in Dallas. After losing my job at a software company in 1995 I went cold calling on galleries here in Dallas with a couple of paintings in hand that I had created for my apartment. Not knowing the protocall at that time to approach galleries most gallery personnel just ushered me out the door and suggest I send slides. Alan however grabbed my painting out of my hand and said “this is fantastic”. He then suggested that if I did more paintings like that he would give me a show. Then he asked, “who are you?” LOL! It was very rewarding that he didn’t care about who I was but was more interested in my work. Hopefully you understand now what I mean by perseverance and good luck. I have quite a few additional stories of perseverance and good luck but rather than bore you I can save those for another time. The one listed here is the most significant.
These images were created by me.